BBC News – Northern Ireland
A Newry food company has been ordered to pay more than £70,000 costs for falsely labelling beef products and Halal meats.
Freeza Meats Ltd was also fined £22,500 for fraudulently selling burgers to which beef hearts had been added.
The former director of the company later said his firm did nothing wrong.
A court heard that an investigation by Newry and Mourne District Council (NMDC) exposed the fraud.
Freeza Meats was originally charged with 71 offences, involving failure to comply with EC food regulations.
The Newry court heard that Freeza Meats had bought almost 655,000 tonnes of beef hearts to use in their supermarket products.
Labels on burger products did not identify the beef hearts as a separate ingredient. EC Regulations state that beef hearts cannot be considered a meat product.
Freeza Meats also admitted packaging Halal burgers that were not Halal.
The court heard they had used meat not slaughtered in Halal ways to save themselves the extra expensive of hiring a Muslim preacher to prepare it.
However, it was stressed that none of the fake Halal meat had been sold to Asda supermarket.
The council’s environmental health department, together with the Food Standards Agency, detected the illegal operation after an extensive and costly investigation.
The council faces court costs of £32,669 and a bill for £39,000 for its forensic work.
In court in Newry on Monday, a defence lawyer said his client had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had not committed any further offences.
He said that even though the products misled the customer, health had not been at risk.
The district judge said public confidence had been damaged.
He said the products were “cheaper substitutes” used to benefit the company financially.
The public are entitled to know that their food is fit for purpose, he said.